Designers, ad agencies, and professional publishers have three capable-if costly-Macintosh page-layout programs to choose from. But what if you simply want to design a newsletter, flyer, or party invitation? Compared with Windows offerings, low-cost consumer-level page-layout programs for the Mac are scarce. MacSoft attempts to fill the void with Mac Publisher Pro 1.5, a $40 program targeting home users. Unfortunately, the program has little more than a handful of fun and intriguing features to recommend it.
The Good News
It’s obvious that Mac Publisher Pro’s developers copied QuarkXPress and Adobe PageMaker and then added a few features that consumers may find useful, such as tools for text warping and for placing cartoonlike text balloons in images. A curve-drawing tool makes Bézier-like lines in a simple and somewhat intuitive way, and you can even place text along the curves.
However, the program’s limitations overshadow its strengths. Most critical, it can’t import text from any word processing program (including Microsoft Word), and I ran into numerous bugs when importing graphics in anything other than PICT format. Unless your documents are extremely simple, you’ll find these restrictions infuriating. In addition, the text-warping and text-on-a-path features work only with TrueType fonts. And you can draw curves, rectangles, and ovals, but you can’t make them transparent.
Templates of Doom
One of the most important features of a consumer page-layout program is its set of templates. Mac Publisher Pro’s templates aren’t just bad; they’re terrible. There are no wizards to help you build pages, and the ill-conceived designs are amateurish. But you won’t get much help from MacSoft’s tech-support staff, who seem unfamiliar with the program.
Melting Pot: Mac Publisher Pro’s interface is a flawed but fascinating combination of QuarkXPress, Adobe PageMaker, and Microsoft Word.